Growing Garlic

By pjain      Published July 3, 2019, 6:15 a.m. in blog Gardening   

About Garlic

Garlic Varieties

  • The original garlic had hardneck from Central Asia needing cold winters and wet springs, however most commerical is of the softneck variety that can be grown in warmer climes.

Artichoke garlic

The most commonly grown commercial garlic. It has a couple of concentric rows of cloves and tends to be very difficult to peel. But it produces and stores well and this is what you probably buy at the grocer's. 'Red Toch' is a well-known Artichoke variety.


Silverskins have silvery, white skins and are composed of many small cloves. They also have a nice sturdy neck that is easily braided. The flavor of Silverskins is usually stronger than Artichokes. 'Nootka Rose' and 'Rose du var' are both full bodied Silverskins.

Elephant Garlic - really a Leek

So-called Elephant Garlic has a very mild flavor for diners who haven't quite warmed to the taste of garlic. In fact, elephant garlic is not garlic at all, but a type of bulb forming leek.

Growing Garlic

Soil and Growing Conditions

  • Garlic likes to be planted about 4-5 inches deep. It's a heavy feeder, it likes very fertile soil, and pretty moist soil, not drench but moist.

  • Use a tiller loosen the top few inches of the soil or something else to work the ground with like, a pick or a shovel Throw aside any large rocks and roots that you've unearthed.

  • Use compost, or any rich organic fertilizer

Your garlic should grow well if given the following conditions:

Well drained soil
Soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0
Minimal weed competition
Plenty of organic matter
An inch of water while the bulb is forming - mid-May to July

1. Plant it

  • When to Plant Fall is garlic planting time. Depending where you are gardening, this could be September to November. Once the soil temperature has cooled off to about 60 degrees F. , the roots of the garlic clove will start to germinate and begin to take hold and anchor the plant.

This is especially important in Northern climates where the ground freezes. Without sufficient time to grow good roots, the garlic plants will heave out of the ground.

  • garlic, separated into cloves. You plant the individual cloves within the bulb. Plant the largest cloves you have, to get the largest bulbs. Plant each garlic clove two to three inches below the soil surface and about 6 inches apart.

The cloves go into the ground pointy side up. The roots will grow from the flat side, and the sprout will emerge from the tip. That means if you plant the clove upside down, the sprout will have to do a u-turn in the earth and might not survive.

The cloves should be buried around 3 inches underground. Since our soil is tilled, I can just make a hole with my finger.

Continue this way along your row, spacing each clove roughly six inches apart.


Cover the Holes/Garlic Cloves with Compost. Now fill each hole with your compost or fertilizer. I got this compost from a friend's compost pile, and it will help the garlic grow big and strong. Its dark color is testament to how nutrient rich it is.


Garlic is relatively pest free, if you use good seed cloves. It is, however, popular with some rodents, especially gophers.

2. Mid-Season - Pinch It

Topsets are the little seed heads. They are also called garlic scapes. When your garlic gets to this point, it's good to pick this off. It will keep the garlic from putting the energy to the scape, and it will put it's energy down into the bulb, and your bulb will get larger. When you see these start coming on, go ahead and pick them and use them before they get too tough.

Most experts believe the scapes drain energy that would otherwise go into bulb development, resulting in a smaller yield. Cutting them off as soon as the stalks begin to curl would redirect the energy downward.

Other garlic growers feel allowing the scapes to remain until they turn woody results in a better storing bulb.

A compromise is to cut the topsets while they are young and use them in cooking.

3. Harvest

When the top starts to die, then it's time to harvest your garlic.

When to harvest garlic is a judgment call, but basically it’s ready to go when the lower leaves start to brown.

About the only way to be sure is to actually dig a few bulbs and slice them in half. If the cloves fill out the skins, it’s time. Harvesting too soon will result in smaller cloves that don’t store well.

If you leave the bulbs in the ground too long and the cloves may be bursting out of their skins, making them unstorable and open to disease.

Artichokes mature first, then Rocamboles, Purple Stripes, Porcelains, and finally Silverskins

Dig, don't pull garlic out of the ground. You may have planted a small clove, but the bulb is now several inches deep with a strong root system.

4. Curing

Brush off any soil clinging to the bulbs.

Leave the stock attached and hang them, and let them cure for a few days before you put them inside. Don't put in the direct sun.

Allow the bulbs to cure or dry for three to four weeks in either a well-ventilated room or a dry, shady spot outside.

Once the tops and roots have dried they can be cut off.

You can also further clean the bulbs by removing the outer skins. Just be careful not to expose any of the cloves.

5. Storing

Garlic likes to be on the cool side, 32oF - 40oF.

The softneck varieties may last 6 - 8 months. Hardnecks should be used soon after harvesting. Hardneck varieties may dry out, sprouting or go soft within 2-4 months. Keeping hardnecks at 32oF sometimes helps them survive for up to 7 months without deteriorating.

  • Saving Seed Cloves If you're a beginning seed saver, there is nothing easier than saving garlic. Simply put aside a few top quality bulbs to plant next season. Store bulbs for replanting at room temperature, with a fairly high humidity of about 70%.

Fall Planting - Use Straw

Fall, from October to early November, is the best time to plant garlic in a temperate climate. The cloves will establish roots before the ground freezes, and will go dormant through the winter. To give them an extra edge against freezing temperatures, I'm covering my beds with a thick layer of straw, up to five inches.

Planting in the fall will produce bigger cloves, but you can also plant garlic in the early spring, when straw is not necessary.

The garlic is planted and insulated. Once the garlic emerges from the ground in the early spring, I'll remove most of the straw to help it get the sun it needs.

Cooking Garlic

Mid-Season little seed heads also called garlic scapes can put this in pesto or you can chop it up and use it in cooking.

Garlic can be used in all kind of recipes such as italian food, pesto or just roast it and eat it as an appetizer. It's a wonderful herb that will keep for months.

Garlic works well with tomatoes as it drives away pests, and can increase yield/sq ft.


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